Legislature Adjourns

20190411 end_of_session_2-01.png

Our legislators are headed back home now that the legislative session has come to an end. Advocates and supporters of Idaho’s democratic process scored a victory with the successful veto of SB 1159 and HB 296, the two controversial bills to silence our votes by virtually ending grassroots citizen initiatives. One of the most important aspects of Governor Little’s veto was the legal challenges those bills were sure to face. But Governor Little also indicated some support for additional changes to the rules of our initiative process in his transmittal letter to the Senate. And Representatives in the House brought forward 4 other bills based on SB 1159 and HB 296 in the final hours of the session. These bills were printed in a last-minute push that left citizens out of the process and skirted public hearings—and it showed. The Senate killed the only one of the four bills that passed the House, HB 303, but this issue is not done yet. We will need to watch carefully what the supermajority during the interim and prepare to oppose future efforts to silence our voices.

Although he did veto the anti-initiative bills SB 1159 and HB 296, Governor Little chose not to veto the amended SB 1204, which places costly work requirements and other restrictions on Medicaid Expansion. The Idaho House of Representatives finally followed the Senate’s lead and passed a funding bill for Medicaid Expansion, so despite the work requirements that go against what the people voted for, tens of thousands of Idahoans will have access to health care in January 2020. While the Expansion is moving forward, there are many components of SB 1204 that leave Idaho in murky legal territory—which will likely end up costing taxpayers in court defending this law. A federal judge struck down the legality of work programs in Arkansas and Kentucky; Idaho’s law is similar to Arkansas and Kentucky. When someone fails to comply with work requirements (which can include simply failing to submit paperwork even if they are working), the Idaho law allows the state to kick them off Medicaid or require a co-pay. All of these provisions will likely be tested in the courts at taxpayer expense.

Many other bills passed this session, and both good bills and bad bills failed to see the light of day or move forward far enough to become law. Education, for example, saw some progress with literacy programs and raises to first-year teacher pay, but the legislative kicked the can down the road when it came to fully addressing the funding formula for public schools.

Doubling Down on The Veto

WeThePeople.jpg

The Governor’s desk is the last stop for both the bills that will move Idaho’s citizen initiative process out of reach for grassroots campaigns by the people. Both bills make Idaho the toughest place in our nation for citizens to use the ballot, silencing the people and taking away our constitutional right to make a law. And the Idaho Legislature’s 2019 session continues to drag on with no end yet in sight.

So, as far as these initiative bills go, what now? It’s up to us to maintain the pressure on Idaho’s top executive! Governor Little must feel our outrage at these threats to our democracy and our rights. Ask the Governor to veto BOTH the original bill placing insurmountable restrictions on initiatives, SB 1159, AND HB 296, the “trailer” bill that poses as a compromise. Keep calling the Governor’s office at 208-334-2100 and email him your reasons for your opposition. If you haven’t yet contacted the Governor about HB 296, call and email today. Then ask three friends to do the same. We The People can do this!

And If you haven’t been following the votes on these bills, take note that the initiative bills have received real bipartisan opposition, including this letter to the editor from one of the Idaho House’s most conservative members.

Aside from the bills to silence our votes, the legislature is still debating funding for Medicaid Expansion, which we all knew was on the legislature’s docket from day one. We The People already made the law with the 61% approval of Proposition 2. Today brought another amended bill (SB 1204a) with costly mandatory work requirements added back in, as well as a family planning referral requirement. This means, for example, women will need a referral from their general practitioner to see an obstetrician or a gynocologist, including for an annual wellness check. The bill passed the House today on a 40-20 vote. It moves to the Senate next for a vote on concurrence, before it can go to the Governor.

Despite the dramatic dueling Medicaid Expansion bills, the legislature actually needs only to pass a budget bill to fund the law. And the on-going debate about work requirements continues to cost us on a daily basis. Every single day the legislature is in session costs us, the taxpayers, the equivalent of an average year’s salary for an Idaho teacher. Contact members of the Senate to express your concerns about the wasteful work requirements in this latest bill!

Veto:Going Once,Going Twice

20190329-people_power-01.png

It’s time for people power! In the last two days, proponents of the bill to silence the voters, SB 1159, have taken a turn toward secrecy, degrading the democratic process at the legislature. Thursday, Repbulican lawmakers hastily crafted a “trailer” bill to alter SB 1159, doing an end run around an open and public process. Proponents of this bill brought it (HB 296) to the floor of the Idaho House without a public hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. Both bills passed today. 

 SB 1159 heads to the Governor’s desk. HB 296 goes to the Senate. If it passes, HB 296 will modify the terms of SB 1159, but regardless of those modifications our ability to qualify a citizens’ initiative is still beyond the reach of grassroots groups. 

 So! Contact the Governor and ask him to veto SB 1159! Call the Governor at 208-334-2100. Email him. Motivate your friends to do the same. Triple your impact by contacting 3 people and asking them to call and email today. Scroll down for some talking points. If the Senate passes HB 296, we will need to ask the Governor to veto that bill, too.

 Now, for the good news! HB 277, the bill to gut Medicaid Expansion with work requirements, failed in committee due to a federal judge’s ruling against work requirements in Arkansas and Alabama. Nearly all the testimony was against the bill and the committee voted 7-2 to hold the bill. Now, Medicaid funding is being considered in the Senate with SB 1204, a bill that seeks to strike a better balance and won’t cost taxpayers nearly as much.

Talking points on SB 1159 Veto (and HB 296 if it passes).

  • These bills would almost uniformly prohibit grassroots initiatives from successfully qualifying for the ballot. Only big money interests would be able to meet the requirements. Silencing citizens is not the Idaho way.

  • If the legislature actually wanted an initiative process with more citizen involvement, they would have included more people in the discussion.

  • It is far more difficult to gather signatures in rural Idaho. These bills are not a way to include rural Idahoans because the timeframe to collect signatures is shortened; these bills make it harder to gather signatures successfully in rural areas.

  • These bills will likely end up in court, costing us, the taxpayers, millions. This is financially irresponsible.

  • Please stand with Idahoans to protect our constitutional right to citizens’ initiatives and stop this terrible waste of our tax dollars.

Tell The Governor: VETO!

20190326-veto-01.png

Two very bad bills continue to make progress in the state legislature and they both deserve opposition every step of the way. We must send emails and make some phone calls (again)!

The Revenge Against the Voters Act, SB 1159, passed out of committee, amidst an overwhelming wave of opposition, including a representative from the ACLU of Idaho. Please contact members of the House of Representatives and tell them to vote against the bill. Call the Governor and ask him to stand up for our constitutional right to make a law and ask him to VETO the bill. Governor Little must see strong opposition at every turn as this process unfolds if he is to use his veto power.

HB 277, the bill to gut Medicaid Expansion by imposing costly work requirements and creating a second “gap” population of working Idahoans without access to healthcare, is up for a committee hearing tomorrow, March 27 at 1 pm. This bill not only excludes thousands of Idahoans from the expansion, it’s outrageously expensive. The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy’s report on the costs of this bill: $32 million per year.

Please contact every member of the Senate Health and Welfare committee by email and also email the committee’s secretary, Margaret Major, at shel@senate.idaho.gov with your comments. Put “Public Testimony, March 27th Senate Health and Welfare hearing” in the subject line to ensure it’s part of the record. Sen. Fred Martin’s bill to fund Medicaid is a much better option, without mandatory work requirements (much lower costs to taxpayers, no secondary gap) and it is moving in the Senate. Then call the Governor at 208-334-2100 and send him an email!

We Won't Be Silenced!

20190326-we_wont_be_silenced-01.png

Holding legislators accountable for their vote to silence Idaho voters requires a strong and immediate public outcry. Please write a letter to the editor and to Governor Little (scroll down for contact info), speaking out against SB 1159.

Talking points for your letters to the editor:

How to submit your letter to the editor:

Submit your letter to the Times News on their website.

Idaho Mountain Express: letters@mtexpress.com

The Weekly Sun: email to publisher@theweeklysun.com

While you are at it, please contact Governor Little, too.

Revenge on the Voters - How They Voted in the Senate

Sign_petition-01-01.png

It was a tight vote this morning in the Idaho Senate but, SB 1159, the bill to put Idaho among the most difficult place in the nation for citizens’ initiatives to qualify for the ballot, passed 18-17. What now? If the bill passes the Idaho House of Representatives, a veto from Governor Little is the remaining step in the process in the legislative branch. Sign the petition for his veto of the legislation here.

In her debate against the bill, Senator Michelle Stennett raised the question of the constitutionality of this bill. The Idaho chapter of the ACLU has also raised this issue.

More immediately, we can hold legislators accountable by flooding the Twin Falls Times-News, the Idaho Mountain Express and The Weekly Sun with letters to the editor expressing our deep and enduring opposition against this vote. We need to put legislators on notice that Idahoans won’t forget their vote to silence our voices. Senator Grow, the bill’s sponsor, drafted this legislation in cooperation with a lobbyist for MoneyTree, the Seattle payday loan giant. MoneyTree is working against citizen-led initiatives here because last year, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to restrict the payday loan industry.

See how Idaho Senators voted on SB 1159.

Battle of the Bills

HB277 vote.jpg

The end of the legislative session is closing in, but we can’t let up. Our voices are needed as two very important Medicaid Expansion bills are at hand, along with the bill to keep Idahoans from making laws. Rep. Muffy Davis brought the Idaho House to silence with her comments on HB 277 today, questioning the costs to Idahoans for the mandatory work requirements associated with Medicaid Expansion and calling out the rushed process for the bill’s hearing. Earlier in the day, the House suspended regular rules on hearing HB 277 in a party-line vote (54-14) with all Democrats voting against the suspension. The Idaho House passed HB 277 this afternoon with a 45-25 vote. A Senate bill to fund the expansion, SB 1204, sponsored by Sen. Fred Martin (R-Boise), has voluntary work requirements and would cost Idahoans much less. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed SB 1204 out of committee this afternoon. And, the Idaho Senate amended SB 1159, Sen. Grow’s bill to silence the voters by making it impossible to put a measure on the ballot, which sends it back to the floor of the Senate for a full vote. Sen. Michelle Stennett has been working hard against this bill. Keep calling Senators and sending your emails. Or head to Boise tomorrow morning to Pack The Senate event and let our legislators there know we support the people’s voices and the people’s will.

Our Voice, Our Vote

13512144611230.jpg

With the hearing for SB 1159 scheduled for 8 am at the Capitol, tomorrow is a big day for Idaho’s democracy. Our constitutional right to make laws is up for consideration by the legislature. It’s up to us to show the legislature that they cannot silence us! So, attend the hearing if you can, but if you can’t keep calling AND emailing. Monday’s hearing brought some of the concerns about this bill forward, but tomorrow’s hearing is just as important.